|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
That the committee consist of seven members appointed by the Speaker reflecting the composition of the House.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned cleaning up donations. Important work has been done over the years to ensure that donations to political parties are clean and transparent. We do not want anyone to have influence over politics in this country that is gained from money coming from abroad. We will, of course, review the Lords amendments.
The hon. Gentleman talked about banking regulation, which can be addressed during todays topical debate on the economy. It is important that we work internationally so that we have the highest standards of regulation for our financial services industry, which is international. We need international guidelines so that we can reach international high standards, and Europe plays an important role in that. Obviously, the structure will have to be operationalised at a national level with each nation ensuring that its national machinery works to high international standards. The Chancellor has made it clear that regulation will be toughened. We want to ensure that the Financial Services Authority and the Bank of England have clear responsibilities, and there will be further work to get this right.
Ms Sally Keeble (Northampton, North) (Lab):
Will my right hon. and learned Friend join me in congratulating the staff and community who have been responsible for the opening of a spectacular new childrens centre in Blackthorn in my constituency? When the Child Poverty
Bill is considered in CommitteeI hope that she will upgrade its Second Reading date of Monday 29 June from provisional to absolutely fixedwill she ensure that there is an evidence session so that the Governments measures on combating child poverty and the work of childrens centres, which the Opposition criticise, can be clearly set out and may feed into the construction of the Bill?
Ms Harman: My hon. Friend makes an important point. There will be evidence sessions. Tackling child poverty is about not only income levelsfrom work and benefitsbut, importantly, the support services that enable children to get on better in their lives. Childrens centres have made a major contribution to equality in this country. There are now more than 3,000 centres, but we want to ensure that there is one in every single neighbourhood. Important discussions about that will take place alongside consideration of the new Child Poverty Bill.
Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire) (Con): Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Foreign Secretary to make a statement next week on British prisoners kept abroad without trial? Failing that, will she ensure that I get a reply to my letter of 21 May to the Foreign Secretary concerning Mr. William Keating, who has been kept in prison without any trial in the Central African Republic since early February? His family are incredibly concerned about what is happening to him.
Ms Harman: I will ensure that the right hon. Gentleman gets the reply to his letter to which he is entitled. Foreign Office questions take place next Tuesday, but I hope that he will receive a reply before then.
Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op): Will my right hon. and learned Friend look into the way in which disabled facilities grants are operated by local authorities? There is an ultimatum that occupational therapists must visit and carry out an evaluation within six months and that the work be done within a year, but it is being stretched by local authorities. There is an additional worry that ring-fenced money is being used for other purposes. Will she mount an investigation into the situation and consider holding a debate?
Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): If the Leader of the House listened to the Today programme this morning, she will have heard the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs giving an interview about climate change projections, on which he is to make a statement after business questions. Although that was deplorableit is doubly deplorable in the Secretary of States case, because he is usually meticulous in upholding the traditions of the House, rather than breaching them in such a waywhat really worries me is that it was clear that the BBC had accessed the document, or received briefing on its substance, yet hon. Members will have to face it blind when we hear the statement.
Can we establish a system whereby when Ministers insult the House by giving interviews outside, they release the documents to which they have referred so that all of us may see them in advance of a statement? Alternatively, although perhaps this is a lesser thing, should not all hon. Members, in much the same way as Front Benchers, have access an hour beforehand to documents on which statements are made, as long as we do so in the privacy of the Library? The calibre of debate would be improved if more people could read the relevant documents prior to statements, and that would genuinely improve the scrutiny of documents and legislation in the House.
Ms Harman: I am not sure whether that suggestion has been made before, but it is a good one. It is not just Front Benchers who need a moment to marshal their thoughts so that they can question Ministers properly; Back Benchers on both sides of the House need that too. The right hon. Gentleman suggests that the content of the statement was put out on the Today programme before the matter came before the House. It is an important principle that the first people who get a chance to question a Minister about a substantive policy statement should be Members of the House, not journalists, so I will get a transcript of the interview on the Today programme and look at the content of the statement.
Dr. Brian Iddon (Bolton, South-East) (Lab): I have a registered interest in this question. Has my right hon. and learned Friend had time to read a letter dated 12 June that she received from the executive secretary of the Royal Society, and the chief executives of the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Institute of Physics and the Institute of Biology, calling for the reformation of a science and technology Select Committee? Will she give the contents of the letter great consideration, given that this is now a cross-party request?
John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): May we please have a debate next week in Government time on the continuing crisis in Burma? Given that the brutal military dictatorship in that country practises egregious human rights abuses, including extra-judicial killings, rape as a weapon of war, compulsory relocation, forced labour, and the use of child soldiers on a scale proportionately greater than in any other country of the world, would it not be good to have a debate in which the Government could explain what action they will take multilaterally to try to bring that regime to book and to give the people of Burma the freedom and justice that we have so long enjoyed and they have so long been denied?
Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South) (Lab): Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that the Bill to set up the parliamentary standards committee will be published in draft and subject to full pre-legislative scrutiny? I am sure that she agrees that it is better that we do not legislate in haste and repent at leisure.
Ms Harman: There is not an intention to publish the Bill in draft and subject it to full pre-legislative scrutiny. It is important that we have a narrow Bill on which there can be complete consensus. If we then want to expand on the Bills provisions, we can do so following consideration of draft clauses and further discussion. The narrow point is that just as we are no longer going to set and vote on our own paywe have agreed a system so that we do not have to do thatwe should not in future set our allowances or administer the system that pays those allowances. To be honest, if we subject a draft Bill to pre-legislative scrutiny, the public will feel that we have not got the point and we have put the matter into the long grass. I know that it is usually good to spend an awfully long time thinking about things, but if there is a straightforward, narrow and practical proposition, we should just get on with it.
Mr. Phil Willis (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (LD): First, I thank the Leader of the House for considering carefully the issues that my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) and the hon. Member for Bolton, South-East (Dr. Iddon) raised about the resurrection of the Science and Technology Committee. When the machinery of government changes took place in 2007, perhaps she was unaware of the strength of feeling not only inside the House but outside it about the need to scrutinise science, engineering and technology effectively. Despite the valiant efforts over the past two years of my Committees members, to whom I pay tribute, in reality, if a very large Committeeand the Select Committee covering the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will be even largeris not able to get to grips with science and technology not only in government but throughout all the Departments, it will be a huge mistake. I hope that on Thursday, when she brings forward her recommendations, she will bear that in mind and recognise that organisations such as the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Royal Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering et al are incredibly interested in supporting the Government in their drive to put science at the heart of Government policy.
Barry Gardiner (Brent, North) (Lab): I know that my right hon. and learned Friend will join me in congratulating the Metropolitan police on its recent successes in reducing violent crime. Could she find time in the next week or so for a debate to discuss the ways in which those successes have been achieved and how to promulgate them more widely?
Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) (PC): The Leader of the House knows that there are urgent ongoing discussions about the imposition on Members of a statutory code of conduct. In the light of recent breaches of the ministerial code, is it not right that we should discuss a similar approach to the ministerial code?
Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): May I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend and the Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Alan Duncan), on the tributes that they paid to the Speaker? Some of us could not make a tribute to him, but we loved him dearly, and will miss him as Speaker. I still feel very strongly about the campaign that was waged against him by Quentin Letts and other people in the press.
May I ask my right hon. and learned Friend not to leave out universities from the debate about how we scrutinise science and technology? Under the present arrangements, it looks as if it will be very difficult to give that important sector, in terms of both our communities and our economy, the proper attention that it deserves.
Ms Harman: It is very important not only that the work of my hon. Friends Select Committee on Children, Schools and Families, which he chairs so ably, is carried through into further and higher education, but that we have a proper Select Committee with responsibility for science and innovation which relates to the business Department and trade and industry. I take his points on board, and will consider them before we come back to the House.
Mr. Greg Knight (East Yorkshire) (Con): Will the Leader of the House think again about the business for next Thursday? On reflection, would not it be better to abandon plans for a parliamentary reform committee and, instead, abolish the Modernisation Committee and refer all issues of outstanding concern to the Procedure Committee? That would then give us time on Thursday to debate the Procedure Committees excellent report on e-petitions, which, if implemented, really would reconnect the public with Parliament.
Ms Harman: I pay tribute to the work that the right hon. Gentleman and his Committee have done on e-petitions, and hope that it will be taken forward. However, his Committees terms of reference do not allow it to address the question of how non-Government business is allocatedat least, I do not think that it does. It is important for us not to make an argument about process, when we are trying to deliver on what is probably a consensus on improving how the House conducts its business. We should move on to the many demands for the Government to cede some of their control and their right to dictate Government and non-Government business. Many Members have argued for that. Should we not all work together to bring that into practice, rather than argue about which Committee does so?
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab):
As someone who does not in any way renounce the 2003 vote on the Iraq war or blame the former Prime Minister, but justifies the vote, in all the circumstances at the time, may I ask my right hon. and learned Friend, regarding Wednesdays debate, whether the Government will reflect further on the committee of inquiry on the Iraq war? I, for one, do not believe that its proceedings should be totally in private. There is undoubtedly an argument
that some of the evidence should be taken in private, but not the entirety. The inquirys credibility is very much at stake, so I do hope that Ministers at the most senior level will have given further consideration to the matter by Wednesdays debate.
Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire) (Con): Further to the question from the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) about the imminent Bill to set up a Parliamentary Standards Authority, I must note there will be disappointment at the Bill not being published in draft. If the Government proceed with a Bill, will the Leader of the House at least give an undertaking that any controversial aspects will not be subject to a guillotine, and may even be taken on the Floor of the House?
Ms Harman: I think that it would be good idea if all the Bills stages were taken on the Floor of the Houseand although there has been no formal publication of the draft Bill, a Bill in draft is being developed. If any Members would like to have a look at what might be in it, they should just come to my room and I shall show it to them. I do not want to go through the palaver of the publication of a draft Bill, but it is no secret that a Bill is being drafted, it has some clauses in it, and the more people who feed their contribution in before it is brought to the House on Second Reading, the better.
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): May we have a debate or a statement on the position of British citizens who are the victims of crime abroad and wish to claim compensation? My constituent Luke Laurent was subjected to a vicious stabbing and attack in Cyprus, and has been trying for the past year to claim compensation. After the Tampere discussions and Hague 2, it should be much easier for British citizens to claim compensation in EU countries. Will my right hon. and learned Friend look at the matter to see whether we can have a debate or statement on this important issue?
Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) (LD): All of us have constituents who have studied hard for years only to leave education this summer with very uncertain job prospects. Graduate unemployment is projected to double, and some estimates are that the number of jobless under-25-year-olds could rise to more than 1 million, so may we have a debate on youth unemployment and what the Government are doing to tackle the problem?
Members could raise the issue later this afternoon in the debate about the economy. It is absolutely at the centre of the Governments concerns that we should protect people from unemployment and from being thrown out of work, which is a tragedy for every individual. It is even worse when that individual is a young person who left full-time education full of hope,
only to feel that they have been thrown on the scrap heap before they have even begun. To avoid that, we have injected billions of pounds of extra funds into jobcentres and are providing apprenticeships, training guarantees and internships. We are definitely working to address those issues, and there will, no doubt, be more discussion this afternoon in the debate about the economy.
Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): I am not sure whether the Leader of the House is aware of this, but the courageous Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, Morgan Tsvangirai, will visit the United Kingdomand, in fact, the House of Commonsnext Tuesday. Would it not be possibleand I ask her please not to tell me to put a question next Tuesday to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairsfor a Foreign Office Minister to make a statement, indicating the contact that the Government have with South Africa, the African Union and Zimbabwes other neighbouring states to monitor the progress towards better forms of democracy in that country, so that we might help the people with meaningful aid, as we are currently unable to? Would she ask for a statement to be made on the Floor of the House?
Ms Harman: I shall ask the Foreign Secretary to consider whether, on the occasion of Morgan Tsvangirais visit, there could be a written ministerial statement setting out the Governments extensive international and bilateral contact in support of the Zimbabwean people, and the extensive aid development programme going into that country.
Mr. Mark Lancaster (North-East Milton Keynes) (Con): May we have a debate on the proposed changes to how furnished lettings are treated for tax purposes? Many of my constituents rent out property, and for tax purposes they are considered to be trading. The proposed changes will alter that, at enormous cost to some people, especially farmers. As the recession continues to bite, is it right that the changes are being brought in now?
Ms Harman: If the point was about farmers, the hon. Gentleman could raise it in this afternoons general debate on farming. Otherwise, I shall bring his points to the attention of Treasury Ministers and work out the most appropriate way of dealing with the concerns that he has raised.
Greg Mulholland (Leeds, North-West) (LD): May we have a debate about the treatment of prisoners on remandwho, of course, have not been found guilty of any offence? I should like to raise the case of my constituent Mr. Mohammed Mudhir, who was subject to extraordinarily inhumane treatment in Armley jail. A few weeks ago, the inquest jury talked of systematic failures, a culture of complacency and a lack of training. Mr. Mudhirs family have been wronged; he committed suicide as a result of the incredible catalogue of failures that he suffered in custody. Will the right hon. and learned Lady allow a debate in the House about this important matter?
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|